- What appealed to me about the story is when an empowered Barbie realizes that she has not been treating Ken, who truly loves her, very well.
As many of us know, the recent movie “Barbie” has caused quite a stir among audiences. Many of my therapist colleagues as well as my clients encouraged me to watch it and so I did. While the movie has so many deep messages about patriarchy and power, I was especially moved by the last couple of scenes in the movie. I do want to be clear that this is just my interpretation of the movie and its message which may very much differ from how others perceived it.
In the last scene of the movie, a now healed and empowered Barbie decides to share her compassion and wisdom with Ken and helps him find his true authentic power. She also realizes that she has been self-absorbed and has not really taken an interest in Ken or made space for him in her life. She admits that not every night has to be “Girls’ Night Out” and that she can make more of an effort to be inclusive of Ken and his buddies.
This scene moved me and made me wonder about the role of healthy narcissism in the journey of empowerment. In the beginning we encounter the stereotypical Barbie living in a bubble, believing in her own fantasy world that was created for her and the other Barbies. Yes, they are all powerful and self-sufficient. However, they are in their own way imbalanced. They have no place in their world for the sacred masculine. Barbie for instance comments to Gloria at one point that she doesn’t really know much about Ken. She doesn’t know where he lives or if he even has a home. She has been busy partying and living the idyllic life with the other Barbies. In a way, she has been pretty narcissistic and self-absorbed.
Having said that, is there a place for narcissism in our lives? I believe there is. A certain amount of healthy narcissism is essential in the stages of empowerment. The medical intuitive turned spiritual teacher Carolyn Myss outlines the various stages of empowerment. Any empowerment journey, she says, starts with a “Revolution” where we realize that a particular system, a pattern of thinking, a relationship, or behavior, no longer works for us. Revolution then leads to “Involution” — a stage where you come face to face with the truth of what is. In the movie this is the point where Barbie realizes that the real world is nowhere close to how she had fantasized about it. Such an explosive truth can completely break you down and bring you to your knees. This is one of the main reasons why people do not want to seek the truth. Truth can be very scary to see and accept and once you have seen it, you cannot unsee it. So many of us prefer to be in denial and indulge in magical thinking. Truth can be devastating at first and cause an implosion.
It is at this stage that we need a healthy dose of “Narcissism.” It is in the stage of narcissism that you realize how powerful you are, how powerful words are, and how powerful belief systems are. Words are powerful — both yours and those of others. They can hypnotize you, cast a spell, act like curses, and manipulate reality. They can equally motivate you, energize you, break spells, help you perceive the truth, and mobilize you into action. In this very critical stage of empowerment, you realize your true power in this world and how each one of us matters. We realize that we can no longer be bystanders in the world because each of us matters to the whole and our every thought, word, and action affects the holism of life.
However, to get to these powerful truths, one needs to be self-absorbed, go within, sit with yourself, sift fact from fiction, admit to yourself with compassion all the lies that you have been telling yourself and those that have been fed to you. You need a web of support to help you — resources such as powerful mentors, teachers, support groups, therapy, self-care, silence, nature, spiritual direction, and anything else that fills you up. All of these are considered as examples of healthy narcissism. This is the stage where it is essential to only focus on yourself with the intention of cleansing and replenishing your cup of well-being.
Unfortunately, many of us get stuck at this stage and are not able to move beyond it. If that happens, then our journey becomes not about empowerment but about entitlement. And that is when narcissism goes too far and becomes unhealthy and toxic. A certain victim consciousness sets in and starts to take over our narratives. Victim energy can be cancerous to self and others and is never empowering. On the contrary, it hemorrhages power. According to Myss, who is also a medical intuitive, as a collective consciousness we have been stuck in this stage of narcissism for a long time and are not able to move on to the next stages of empowerment.
Healthy narcissism when navigated properly leads one to transformation and evolution. In the movie, we can see how Barbie uses the help of her friend and mentor Gloria to help her heal. Gloria, who realizes her own power and the power of her words uses this not to manipulate and dominate others, but to help them snap out of the patriarchal spell they have been under and find their true power within. A healed Barbie does not keep the secret just to herself. She then chooses to help each of her friends find their own healing. This is the sign of true empowerment. You empower yourself so that you can empower others. Our gifts are meant to be shared with others as beautifully demonstrated by the character of Gloria in the movie. This is the secret sauce.
If the movie had ended with just all the Barbies healing, I would have been not as touched or moved by it. What completed the story for me is when an empowered Barbie realizes that she has not been treating Ken, who truly loves her, very well. Through this realization, she softens her heart and attitude towards Ken and helps him find his own power within. The movie ends with Ken also realizing that he is enough by wearing a shirt that says, “I am Kenough.” That part moved me the most because it validated my understanding that we all need healing — no matter what our personal pronouns are. We all need to know deeply that we are enough on the inside!
Our journey of empowerment should lead us to this truth of the one world consciousness — that we are all from one source, what affects the one affects the many, and that we need to help each other heal and realize our true power. To me the movie reiterated the truth that both Barbie and Ken need to heal and share power with each other. That leads to a balanced universe. As Carolyn puts it very succinctly, the journey of empowerment is about evolving from the love of power to the power of love. To me, Barbie embodied this in her journey.
Vinutha Mohan is a California-based licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in trauma. Before her avatar as a therapist, she spent over 15 years in the corporate world.